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On Apple's Latest Launch Day, the 5S Is Hot and the 5C Is Not


The line at the Fifth Avenue flagship Apple store in New York City was the longest it has ever been -- and it's the gold iPhone 5S that everyone wants.

This morning, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster announced that the line at Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York City was the longest it had ever been on the day of an iPhone launch. To get their hands on the new high-end, fingerprint-scanning 5S or the colorful, cheaper 5C, 1,417 people were in line at the store at 8 a.m. ET. According to Munster, that is a full 83% longer than the line for the iPhone 5 at the same time on September 21, 2012.

Munster is known for following Apple closely, so naturally he has tallies for other iPhones. In 2008, the iPhone 3G attracted a line of 549 eager shoppers; in June 2010, the iPhone 4 attracted 1,300 people.

The higher numbers could be attributed to the fact that Apple did not offer pre-orders for either the 5S or the 4 (the new 5C, however, was available for pre-order). The 5S faces supply constraints, as its powerful A7 64-bit chip and fingerprint scanner are likely more difficult to produce than the technology for the 5C.

Even more scarce is the gold version of the iPhone 5S, which is proving to be the most popular of the new iPhone offerings. The 5S became available to order online this morning as well; within minutes, the delivery date for the Gold iPhone 5S was simply "October." According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple has already asked its suppliers to increase production of the gold-colored models by one-third.

In another report, the Wall Street Journal quoted Lian Jiyu, a 25-year-old TV station worker who was waiting in line in Beijing. Said Jiyu, "I don't care what's inside the device. Chinese people like gold." Obviously, everyone else does, too.

It's probably good that consumers like Jiyu "don't care what's inside the device," as the consumer tech repair website iFixit got its hands on a 5S, opened it up, and found no major changes besides, of course, the A7 processor and the fingerprint scanner.

But if the 5S is proving its popularity with a very strong and encouraging opening, the 5C is debuting more modestly. It began on Wednesday, when the The Guardian reported that preorders for the 5C were only a mere (and perhaps shocking) one-tenth of what was expected. Jumping back across the pond, Benzinga's Louis Bedigian was at the Somerset Collection mall in Troy, Michigan, for the launch, where he reported, "No one in line would admit to buying an iPhone 5C." Of course, that could simply be because the 5C is available online and ships within one to three business days, so why join a queue?

At the end of the day, the 5C has almost the same exact specs as its predecessor, the iPhone 5. For the thrills, for the excitement, the 5S is today's winner, though nothing is certain in terms of long-term sales.

As Stanley Hawkins, the first man in line at Somerset Collection in Troy, told Bedigian, "I remember the first time I [waited], it was just so wonderful -- the camaraderie of people waiting with anticipation -- like it's Christmas again. Adults can have Christmas all over again when Apple comes out with a new iPhone."

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshWolonick and @Minyanville
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